Next week, the small Bavarian village of Oberammergau will open its doors to the flood of tourists, as the thirty-sixth performance of the town's once-in-a-decade Passion Play begins.
LV Oberammergau beneath mountains
VARIOUS SHOTS..of town
Town readied for visitors (12 shots)
Wood carvers prepare objects for sale (8 shots)
Souvenir shop-visitors and object d'art (8 shots)
Beatrix Lang (mary) walking in garden
MV Another actor pushing bike through streets
LV Theatre (2 shots)
LV Goats and donkey arriving at stage door
Computer room for ticket sales (4 shots)
CU Cross on proscenium
Christ arrives on donkey and talks to crowd
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: Next week, the small Bavarian village of Oberammergau will open its doors to the flood of tourists, as the thirty-sixth performance of the town's once-in-a-decade Passion Play begins.
The play is the fulfilment of a vow made until the World's end by Oberammergau's forefathers, to thank God for delivering the town from a plague in 1633. They vowed to perform the marathon Christ story during the summer every tenth year.
The play represents nine months of solid work by the townsfolk who become transformed from typical Bavarian peasant-style existence into an internationally-known cast of religious actors.
For the nine intervening years, Oberammergau is almost neglected by the passing tourist trade. Surrounded by mountains, the town, with its population of 4600, is well of the beaten tourist track.
This year the Passion Play will bring more than half a million spectators to its more than 100 performances. Every night for five months 500 visitors will be accommodated in the village and surrounding districts.
For Oberammegau, the work this demands is enormous, but the rewards are also great. Mayor, Ernst Zwink, estimated the village will collect between two million and 2.2 million sterling from ticket sales alone. So great has been the demand that a special computer has been installed in the village to handle ticket and accommodation reservations. Top price for a ticket is five pounds sterling.
For the two main performers, 21-year-old Beatrix Lang, who plays the Virgin Nary, and 36-year-old Helmut Fischer, who plays Christ, it is an exhausting time. Every day they'll be spending more than seven hours on stage and at the same time have to deal with mountains of fan mail.
The townspeople are not worried by suggestions that their ancient vow to stage the Passion Play has become entangled with big business. There is nothing in that vow, they say, which bars business.
While the income is high, the town's outgoings are also heavy.
Helmut Fischer and several of the other leading characters will receive about 1500 pounds sterling for their five months work. This is almost double that of the previous performance ten years ago.
In all the 1800 people taking part in the play will account for almost one million sterling and a further one million has been spent on improvements to the theatre, new stage machinery, costumes, repairs to village streets, new parking places and extra hygiene arrangements.
In 1960, Oberammergau built itself a kindergarten and new fire station from the Play's profits and this year it is thinking of a new and larger theatre.
In all, Oberammergau could be regarded as a mixture of Passion, Piety and Profit.